10 (More) Tips on Doing Productive Web Work with Kids in the House

Not all web workers are the hip, trendy, just-out-of college types — quite a few of us have rugrats running around, making noise, spilling juice and demanding attention at the same time as our email and IM demand that same attention.

I’ve got a 14-year-old daughter who wants to use the computer to check her MySpace messages, a 1-year-old daughter who is extremely tiny and yet has the healthiest set of lungs in the house, and four kids in between who make the Tasmanian devil seem like a calm Zen Master. And yet, I manage. I write several articles a day on top of my day job, in addition to cleaning the house, doing errands, and making sure the bills are paid on time.

We’ve written before on how to manage kids in the home office. As a father of six kids, I have some additional tips based on my own experience.

1. Wake up early. I’ve trained myself to get up at 4:30 a.m. most days (sometimes I sleep in until 5:30 or 6:00 a.m.). Now, I’m not saying you have to get up that early, but getting up even half an hour or an hour earlier than the younguns can give you some time to do some uninterrupted work in the quiet of the predawn hours.

2. Team up with your spouse. It really helps to have a great, supportive spouse. My wife is a teacher, so she needs to do work herself, so we take turns working at the computer while the other keeps the kids at bay. Take the kids outside, or take them to a park, or read to them, while your spouse does some work. Then switch.

3. Stay up a little later. While my kids are going to bed, I jump on the computer and do some writing, clear out my email inbox, take care of a few other web tasks before bed. I can often get a good hour or so after the little ones are tucked away.

4. Teach them to play by themselves. My kids can keep themselves entertained for good stretches at a time. They play Legos or board games in the room, they play imaginary space alien characters (or Pokemon or Star Wars or whatever is popular), and yes, I let them play video games or watch a DVD sometimes. I let them go in their room and play for a little while so I can get a little work done. I check on them from time to time, of course, and don’t hole them up for too long.

5. Send them to grandmas. Sometimes they like to go to their grandparents or to an aunt’s house for a little while. I cram out the work when they’re gone.

6. Go to a coffee shop or library. Sometimes you just gotta get out of the house and find some peace and quiet. If you’ve got a laptop, go be among grownups and do some work at a coffee shop. If not, a library is a great place to work, with free Internet connections and a quiet environment. Just make sure it’s not kids’ read aloud hour.

7. Ask them to play quietly. I actually like having the kids play near me, but sometimes I tell them that it’s daddy’s work time, so they have to play quietly. This, surprisingly enough, can actually work. For a little while.

8. Tune them out. This is one of the modes I use most often. I let them do their thing around me while I go into a state of Flow, tuning out the world and focusing completely on my work. I can do this for a surprisingly long time. I think it must be conditioning or something.

9. Send them outside. I have a fairly big yard, set back a ways from the road, so I can send (most of) my kids outside to play while I do work. The run around like crazy people, scaring the neighbors, while I work in peace.

10. Turn off the computer and play with them. You can’t tune out your kids all the time. Web worker parents know that while work is important, the kids are more important, and productivity doesn’t hold a candle to spending quality time with them, having fun with them, and just loving them. Their childhoods only last for a flickering moment in time, so be sure not to miss it.

Have your own tips on being productive with kids in the house? Share them in the comments.


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